There is some sort of underlying silence to the world that seems a living, breathing presence. When you are loud, it stirs, like a sleeping dragon. I’ve lived a good portion of my life torn between fear and longing: terrified that sleeping dragon would wake and see me, and yet longing to be seen.
I remember a dream from when I was four: in the dream, I woke to a moonlit room, and stood surveying my bedroom through crib bars. The light of the moon turned the baby blue walls a pale silver-white, and my cartoon character curtains glowed like a TV screen. As I stood there, my bedroom door opened, seemingly on it’s own. I could see the dark hallway beyond; it seemed to seethe with that mysterious breath, the way houses gain a life of their own when everyone has gone to bed. Shadows come to life, and things creep that we day dwellers would rather not know about.
I should have been frightened, but I felt more curious than afraid. After a minute, some little creatures began a parade into my room. I realized characters on my curtains had sprung to life and sneaked out of my room while I was sleeping and apparently been up to mischief in the kitchen. They tripped in, single file, dancing to little instruments they played as they moved. As I watched, I realized they were carrying something; something big enough that it took two or three of them together to carry it. They brought it over to me in my crib where I clutched the side bars like a four-year-old prisoner. In order to bring it up to my eye level, they jumped on each others’ shoulders, and passed up the burden between two living towers. I reached out my hand and grasped the burden, and realized it was my favorite thing in the world: an Eskimo Pie! Somehow, they had gotten into the freezer, gotten one for me, and brought it to my room!
Miracles of miracles!
Excited, I tore it open and took a bite. Instantly, there was a collective gasp from the little entourage, and one of the living towers wobbled over to my window to lift the curtains. With accusatory cry of, “Now look what you’ve done!” , they pulled back the curtains to reveal a huge harvest moon, hanging at window level, glaring into my room like a planetary headless horseman. The huge eye pinned me to the bed, seeing me in my moment of guilt, complete with chocolate melting on my figures: I was not the good little girl I pretended to be.
Of course, I’m sure I woke crying and my mom came in to comfort me. Who knows how much of the story I was able to relate; it’s likely it was one of those long nights for Mom, trying to get me back to sleep. Perhaps this dream was the catalyst for years of sleeping with a nightlight on. The harvest moon became a recurring symbol for me in my dreams; sometimes all it took was a loud noise of a passing motorcycle to awaken that all-seeing eye in the sky to peer balefully down on the earth and shame us all.
Years later, when I first read the Lord of the Rings, my skin crawled every time Frodo dodged the Eye of Sauron. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve eat the fruit of knowledge and then they hide from God. The Bible says they were suddenly aware of their nakedness. This theme runs deep in the human psyche; we are all terrified of being seen, being vulnerable.
And yet, I long for it. I want to be seen, be heard. I want to see others, hear them, twine our stories, and touch something sacred. There’s an art to this: I’ve seen others do it, we all have, and we instinctively love them. It’s a place where you are not withdrawn, and you are not projecting yourself, you simply ARE.
Brené Brown calls that kind of being seen “wholehearted living”, and her research shows we can’t do it without being vulnerable. As she has noted in her research, we spend years numbing and avoiding being seen – I know I have. Hiding what I wanted from even myself. Alcohol, sleeping, sugar, all are self-demoting strategies to shrink from the all-seeing eye of The Critic.
This is incredibly difficult for me – to just step out as I am, not perfecting, not cleaning up who I am before I let others see me. To do this right, I cannot selectively choose who and what sees me. Sometimes I think that harvest moon is my higher self, sometimes I think it’s a demon sent to haunt me. Maybe it’s both.